Springfield students honored in writing challenge about community violence

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May 16—Springfield City School District middle school students participated in the Do the Write Thing program for the fourth year in a row.

Ten students were honored last week by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost as finalists in the challenge, which is a national program that asks seventh and eighth grade students to explain how youth violence affects them and to share their ideas on how to stop it.

"I understand that writing about violence isn't easy," Yost said. "But your essays were profound, enlightening and thought-provoking — exactly what we need to hear from you, our young citizens, to gain a better understanding of the world you envision and the reality you face."

Middle schooler Adolfo Cruz Jr. shared his insight from part of his essay for the program.

"In order to stop youth violence, we have to first look at the kids who are invisible from others, when kids or teens who are ignored or not paid attention to, it triggers a emotion of anger and sadness towards them, which lets it control them, and if they let this anger control them, they want to do something violent — as in a few examples: kill, steal, hate towards others who haven't done anything to them and make others feel bad toward each other," he wrote in his essay.

This year, more than 900 Springfield seventh- and eighth-graders participated in the program.

"Once again, Springfield students were asked to write about how violence impacts their daily lives and to share their ideas of how to reduce violence in their community," Yost wrote in the introduction to a booklet containing the essays of the Springfield finalists. "They tackled the difficult subject with candor, thoughtfulness and insight beyond their years."

Springfield-area business leaders and community members judged the work of students from Hayward, Roosevelt and Shaefer Middle Schools and selected the 10 finalists for publication in the booklet, which will be distributed statewide.

Tah' Tionna Taylor and Cruz, along with six students from the three other Ohio districts participating in the program, were chosen as ambassadors to represent the district in July at the Do the Write Thing national conference in Washington, D.C.

"No community is immune to violence and its devastating effects, but to turn the tables and create positive change in our school, neighborhoods and cities should be commended and acknowledged," said Superintendent Bob Hill. "Your voices are making an impact in our community and throughout Ohio."

In partnership with Yost, Springfield was the first school district in Ohio to participate in the program in 2020. The program has since expanded to four other Ohio districts including Canton, Lima, Youngstown and Zanesville.

The challenge encourages students to share how their experiences with violence have personally impacted them and how they can reduce violence in their communities. The program challenges students to express in story, poem, song or other written form the violence they have seen or faced while exploring these questions: — How does violence affect your daily life? — What are some of the causes of youth violence in your community? — What can you as an individual do to reduce youth violence in your community?

Do the Write Thing, which is organized by the National Campaign to Stop Youth Violence, was founded in 1994 and has reached millions of students nationwide.